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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Scandalous Austen: a colorful Janeite conversation

I know I've said that the bad boys and the Austen bitches and the unforgivable things were my favorite question, but THIS might just be the best thing we've talked about in our colorful conversations: SCANDAL.
You know it's true.
I asked. . .
There are plenty of fabulous scandals in Austen -- what's your favorite and what makes it so delicious?
MISTY: Alright, ladies, I'm sure we have lots to talk abo—
LAURIE: Lucy Steele, Princess of Darkness, running off with her fiancé’s brother, Mr. Toothpick Case himself, a/k/a Robert Ferrars!
MISTY: Kicking it off with Lucy, I like it!
Secretly plotting how to screw you over...
LAURIE: It is delightful on several levels, first and foremost of which is its freeing up Edward for Elinor. Next in importance, but only slightly less delicious, is the well-deserved blow that the elopement delivers to the loathsome Fanny and John Dashwood, along with the equally loathsome mother of Edward.
MISTY: I do find that just. . .ah! So perfect. I love to think of Fanny, loathsome Fanny, sitting around in her prissy clothing, absolutely stewing.
LAURIE: Happy dance all around.
MARGARET: I don't know that this is a scandal precisely, and I'm afraid of spoiling Emma for those who haven't read it (you really should read it), but I have to go with a certain secret engagement that is revealed near the end.
CECILIA: Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. WHAT THE EFF, amirite?
MISTY: Haha! No worries about spoiling anything here. I mean, I'm of the firm opinion that you can't "spoil" something that's 200 years old, so if you disagree, COME AT ME, BRO.
MARGARET: It was a surprise to me, anyway, the first time I read Emma, but then when you go back to re-read all the clues are laid out quite plainly, and you wonder how you missed them! No one can accuse Jane Austen of cheating on her plots.
MISTY: God, I can't even remember if it surprised me. I mean, it couldn't have in the book, because I'd seen the movie first, but was I ever surprised? I think I must have been. I think I must have been, to have been charmed enough by Frank to feel disappointed in him, and to feel like he'd done wrong...
See this face? Don't trust it.
CECILIA: Respectively wooing and befriending Emma while being secretly engaged? This is telemundo-level drama. What is Fairfax' deal? Is she reserved, like Elinor from S&S, or does she crave drama? Is she spineless or did she orchestrate Frank into the deceit?
CECILIA: What I love is how Austen takes two almost boringly "perfect" characters and flips them into a mysterious, scandalous couple who need their own book.
MISTY: I . . . I don't think I could read an entire book about Jane and Frank. I don't know that I could do that to myself. *long pause* And if I'm honest, it's maybe half that I don't want them to be redeemed; I don't want to rob myself of the joy of holding a grudge against them. (Did I mention that I'm a bit of an Emma? I don't like Jane, and I don't want to!)
CECILIA:*shakes head at Misty*
MARIA: *redirecting the conversation* I think my favorite has to be Lady Catherine coming to visit the Bennets and having the faithful exchange with Elizabeth.
You don't say, Lady C...
You don't say. . .
MISTY: Oh my GOD, that is so good!
MARIA: The nerve of the woman—abusing Elizabeth like that. And the way Elizabeth stands up to her! Gotta love that!
MISTY: I could not be prouder of Elizabeth than in that moment, and I soooo love seeing someone put in their place.
MARIA: In trying to force her own way into the situation, Lady Catherine ended up giving Darcy the hope he needed to pursue Elizabeth again. So the very thing she was trying to prevent, she caused! I just love the delicious irony of that.
MISTY:  Not only that! I mean, that is delicious, but on the subject of scandal, just THINK of the tongues wagging when Lady Catherine shows up in Hertfordshire! Now that is prime scandal!
LISA: For me the most intriguing scandal takes place in Persuasion. Mrs. Clay looks to be well on the way toward snagging Sir Walter — and quite a coup that would have been for her! — when she throws it all aside and allows herself to become the mistress of Mr. Elliot.
MISTY: Ooh, Mrs. Clay! She is a slippery one all around! 
LISA: A complete flouting of the “bird in hand” principle and a masterstroke on Austen’s part. It tells us a lot about human nature in general and, most particularly, the formidable attractions of the sleazy Mr. Elliot.
MISTY: But is it "throwing it all away"? I always thought it was rather calculated on her part -- I mean, partly the younger man's appeal, but I thought she'd sort of realized she was on the way out, but Mr. Elliot was on the way UP. Hmm... But wait! Is no one going to mention the scandals of Mansfield Park? You wanna talk telenovela -- they were a hot mess! But maybe we'll save them for another day. . . They could fill a conversation on their own.
Let us know your favorite scandals in the comments!

Big thanks to:
Maria Grace, author of Mistaking Her Character, et al.
Cecilia Gray, author of The Jane Austen Academy series
Lisa Pliscou, author of Young Jane Austen
Margaret C. Sullivan, author of Jane Austen Cover to Cover, et al.
Laurie Viera Rigler, author of the Jane Austen Addict series

Click here to return to the Austen in August Main Page


  1. I'm so glad you mentioned Mansfield Park because OMG Henry Crawford preying on Maria and Julia. Wickham and Lydia running off to Gretna Green has nothing on Maria's scandalous behavior, and Henry's. Oh, and Mr. Tilney turning out poor Catherine in the middle of the night! Pretty shocking, especially given the reason was basically "I'm disappointed she isn't an heiress". There's....actually a lot of people behaving badly bin Austen.

    1. Oooh, Gen. Tilney is a good one! That was pretty ridiculous, that should definitely make the list!

    2. I agree about Gen. Tilney. What a horrible man! Or as Mrs. Allen put it, "I really have not patience for the General." :))

  2. I think one of my favourite scandals has to be the infamous Lydia-Wickham one, if only because it ended up giving us that scene right after Elizabeth has read that set of shocking letters from Jane, and is emotionally vulnerable with Darcy. We get to see more of a reaction from him than we normally do (less reserved), as he is clearly upset at both the situation and her distress. (I particularly like the BBC portrayal of this scene; Colin Firth's Darcy is trying to maintain that emotional control he always has, but it's slipping.) And of course the whole time there's a mismatch going on mentally for them – she's convinced there's no way he'll ever want to associate with her after this, and he's busy planning what his next move will be to deal with the situation.

    There's always the scandal from S&S, too, with Willoughby choosing Miss Grey and her 50 000 pounds and jilting Marianne – and then later coming back to talk to Elinor about how tortured he's been by that decision. Just deserts, that one.

  3. You know, I had never considered how genuinely scandalous her books were until this moment! But DAYAM. There is a lot of scandal going on!

  4. I do believe she liked her scandal. Mrs. Clay and Mr. Elliot were the ones who popped into my head first, but then Henry Crawford and Maria came next. Wonder what scandal would have shocked the residents of Sanditon if that had been finished.

    Fun discourse, ladies!

    1. Okay, and I have to give a plug for Isabella Thorpe and Captain Tilney. That was a nine-day wonder for those in the know.

    2. !!!!!!!! oh yeah that was extremely outrageous!
      Now I want a soapy version of Austen on TV. Ha.

    3. Ohhh, can you imagine? That would be the best thing ever. I'd crowdfund the shit out of that. =D

    4. Thanks for making me laugh out loud, Misty!

  5. The 2 that pop immediately into my mind are Lydia and Wickham as well as Mrs. Clay and Mr Elliott. and the Georgiana Wickham near elopement....ok...so that's 3.

  6. The 2 that pop immediately into my mind are Lydia and Wickham as well as Mrs. Clay and Mr Elliott. and the Georgiana Wickham near elopement....ok...so that's 3.

  7. I can't imagine anything more scandalous than marrying a man with less than 10,000 a year!


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